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Filed under: Relaxation

Boost your fitness with yoga!

Try these yoga routines to calm, balance, and challenge your mind and body!

Adding yoga to your fitness routine can build strength and endurance, increase focus, and improve your well-being. What’s more, yoga can help reduce stress and relieve pain from injury or illness. No matter what motivates your health or performance goals, you can benefit from HPRC’s video series on yoga sequences that target different parts of your body.

  • Calming Yoga. This exercise helps activate the relaxation response in your mind and body by combining gentle yoga poses, breathing, and mindful awareness.
  • Balance Yoga. This routine focuses on breathing to help energy flow evenly throughout your body.
  • Challenge Yoga. This activity can help strengthen your core, increase flexibility, and relieve stress through a number of poses.
  • Challenge Yoga with Weights. This sequence combines light weights with challenging poses to reduce stress and increase muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Whether you’re a beginner or expert, here are some tips for effective yoga practice:

  • Go slow. If you’re practicing in the morning, take your time and ease into the positions because your body might need to warm up at first.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain or “overstretching,” stop because you’ve reached your “full expression.” If you’re having a hard time or breathing problems, move into Corpse Pose: Lie flat on your back with your hands facing upwards. Do this until you feel better.
  • Watch and learn. If you’re a beginner practicing alone, it might be helpful to go through the videos first and become familiar with the various moves.

Ask your healthcare provider about the different forms of yoga, so you can choose what’s right for you. This is especially important for those with heart conditions or women who are pregnant.

Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Apps, Tools, and Videos page to check out the Yoga Series videos and learn other mind-body techniques too.

Stressed out? It isn’t all in your head.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
The mind-body connection is incredibly powerful. Learn more about how this two-way interaction can work for and against you.

Stress affects your body, and the condition of your body can cause stress. If you have PTSD, you could be so chronically stressed that it contributes to a heart condition. Or if you had a heart attack, you could feel so traumatized that you become anxious. What’s more, stress could have contributed to your heart attack in the first place. This back-and-forth relationship also occurs between physical pain and depression. You physically hurt, so you feel down…you feel down, and so you hurt more.

This link between mind and body is amazing. Sometimes it can feel like it’s working against us, but you can also use the mind-body connection to your advantage! For instance, you can learn to push through strong emotions with mindfulness, reduce your blood pressure with a self-driven technique called autogenic training, or turn on your body’s relaxation response through deep breathing.

There are lots more ways you can put the mind-body connection to work to reduce your stress. Get more ideas by exploring HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills section.

The ABCs of stress

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind, Relaxation, Stress
The ABCs of stress explain how much stress you feel and why. Learn how they can be turned into strategies for stress management.

Everyone experiences stress, but how you interpret stress determines how stressed you feel. This process is often referred to as the “ABCs of stress”:

Activating event + Beliefs = Consequences

When you experience an event, you interpret that “Activating event” according to your “Beliefs”—the lens through which you view the world. Generally, your interpretation is what causes your feelings of stress—that is, the “Consequences.” This is why two people can go through the same event and be affected in very different ways. If your interpretation of events leads to high levels of stress, you can manage your stress by finding ways to reframe your interpretation. suggests making a “Stress Toolkit” in which you identify helpful coping strategies. These could be strategies that ignite your relaxation response or reframe your thinking (see above) and/or behavioral methods such as deep breathing.

Another way to help you manage stress is to think through future stressful situations to be better prepared. suggests: 1. Visualize potential stressful situations. 2. Determine how much of the situation you can control. 3. Problem-solve what you can control (using coping methods that work for you), and 4. Remember to lean on your friends and family for support.

For more information and ideas, visit HPRC’s Stress Management section.

Relax and overcome your stress

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Mind, Relaxation, Stress
Learn about two natural responses—stress and relaxation—you can learn to influence and help you on your way to optimum performance.

The “relaxation response” is your body’s natural reaction against the negative effects of stress; it shuts off the “stress response” when the need for it is over. Recent research has shown that the relaxation response can decrease the harmful effects of chronic stress even at the gene level. Learn about your body’s natural stress and relaxation responses, when they are and aren’t helpful, and how to control them when their natural operations fail in HPRC’s “Influence Your Body’s Stress & Relaxation Responses.

Turn on your body’s “relaxation response”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Turn on your body’s natural relaxation response through specific techniques you can learn to do.

The “relaxation response” is your body’s counterpart to the stress response you feel during critical situations. As the name suggests, the relaxation response has a calming effect on your mental and physical state, with benefits that include less anxiety, a more positive mood, a sense of calmness and well-being, and reduced heart rate, breathing and metabolic rates, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

Sound good? You can learn how to use your body’s relaxation response for health and well-being. Various mind-body techniques such as deep-breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai-chi, and qigong all train you to turn this response on. Practicing these mind-body techniques has been found to help with anxiety and depression, as well as physical conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and types of cancer that are exacerbated by stress.

To learn more about mind-body techniques, check out HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills section.

Take a deep breath and relax

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
All the added stresses of military life can leave your body’s muscles tight and sore. Deep breathing exercises can help release that excess physical tension.

Have you breathed deeply lately? Breathing’s not something we usually have to think about, so we tend to take it for granted. But our breath can be a powerful tool for relaxation and stress relief. Taking time every day to focus on deliberate breathing—that is, breathing deeply and with control—can allow your body’s relaxation response to kick in and help you de-stress.

Slow-paced and deep-breathing exercises have been widely studied for their relaxing effects on the body’s stress response system. There are several types of deep-breathing exercises you can perform, but one of the easiest and most common is just called “deep breathing” (or “diaphragmatic breathing”). HPRC has a video on Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance that introduces three breathing strategies for human performance optimization: “Deep Breathing,” “Alternate Nostril Breathing,” and “Fast-Paced Breathing.” A longer version is available for you to practice along with the instructor, or you can download a Performance Strategies transcript that takes you through these breathing exercises step-by-step to achieve relaxation.

For more ideas on relaxation strategies, check out the Stress Management resources in HPRC’s Mind Body domain.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation—A great total-body skill!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a way to relieve the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety—read on to learn how to relax!

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a way to relieve the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety that show up as tense, aching muscles. This mind-body practice helps you consciously release muscle tension so that you’re able to function throughout the day and relax during downtime. Using PMR, you learn to release tension and develop deep relaxation by actively tensing and then relaxing the muscles throughout your body. The outcome: You can train your body to relax on command. Check out the description of how to do PMR in the Controlled Response handbook section of the OSOK Total Force Fitness program.

For more information on relaxation strategies, check out the Stress Management resources in HPRC’s Mind Body domain.

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